Programs and Initiatives: Water Program

The Water Program works to improve efficiency, ensure basic access to water, and protect the environment.

Water is one of our most precious and valuable resources. Without it, we would perish. Plants and animals need a reliable supply, and it is critical to growing crops and etching chips. Despite its importance, some 780 million people around the globe still lack access to clean water and thousands perish daily for lack of safe water. In the natural world, many of our most important aquifers are being over-pumped and half of the world’s wetlands have been lost to development. There is a political dimension to water as well: almost every major river system on the planet is shared by two or more nations, making water a source of international conflict and a matter of national security.

As water cuts across disciplines and issues, so does our Water Program. Since our founding in 1987, we’ve worked to bring attention to key issues that have often been overlooked: the impact of climate change on water, water as a basic human right, the importance of conservation and efficiency, the role of water in conflict, the globalization and privatization of water, threats to the world’s water, and more.

The most important change we can make is in the way we think about water. Big dams and centralized storage projects have brought many benefits and are still needed in some parts of the world. But “soft path” solutions – conservation, efficiency, and community-scale infrastructure – can bring clean water to billions who don’t have it while helping protect our natural world. There are a host of solutions to the pressing problems of shortages, disease, and environmental destruction that, if properly used, will help us build a more sustainable and equitable future. Only by developing a new approach that makes sustainability and efficiency paramount can effective and permanent solutions to these problems be found.

Program Directors